Author Archives: commongroundkansas

About commongroundkansas

Consumers aren't getting the real story about American agriculture. We're a group of farm women and we plan to change that by doing something extraordinary. Our program is called CommonGround and it's all about starting a conversation between women who grow food, and the women who buy it. This is our chance to set the record straight and to help get you the facts about farming and your food. We hope you'll join in the conversation.

Conversation Flows at “Dinner on the Farm”

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by Laura Handke, CommonGround Kansas volunteer

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Laura and Chris Handke, with daughter Audrey Ann, are proud to represent the fourth generation on Chris’ family farm near Atchison, KS.

Grain finished beef brisket, fresh-from-the-garden green beans, butter yourself (and lots of it, please) homegrown sweet corn and homemade dinner rolls preceded a perfectly crusted, vanilla ice cream topped peach cobbler—is your mouth watering yet—all from the farm and all the main topic of conversation at the Dinner on the Farm evening hosted by Bismarck Gardens, Lawrence, KS, on July 9.  It was a made-to-order event: a nice breeze beat the heat, the location was picture perfect and great conversation flowed throughout the event. It was a perfect evening!

Both the owners and employees who make Bismarck Gardens so successful, in cooperation with Kansas Corn, made sure that the evening was all about mingling, food, fun and lots of conversation! Farm owner Patrick Ross addressed the group right after the meal to talk about the farm, the dinner we had all just enjoyed and to thank everyone for coming and sharing in the evening.

I sat by a fun-loving couple from Shawnee Mission: she manages the produce department at HyVee and he is an Uber driver; a lively pair of BFFs in their eighties; and a young entrepreneurial couple from Arkansas who moved to Lawrence to grow their business of helping foreign students acclimate to a new environment, both academically and socially.  I couldn’t have hand-picked better conversations! We talked about the advantages of grain fed beef, nutrition, sweet corn versus field corn and how field corn is used, and the incredible feats agriculture technology has achieved in the past decade. We shared childhood stories of growing up on the farm — we all had farm roots, but most had long-since pursued lives in town.

As events go, I would have to say that this has been my favorite to participate in as a CommonGround volunteer. I was excited to have been invited to participate and even more excited by the thought of similar events in the future! These are the events that spark those touchy conversations that ignite interest, but with a farmer on hand to meet that interest with correct, factual and current resources and information. Way to go, Bismarck Farms and Kansas Corn, you hit the nail on the head with this event!

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“Farmland” documentary sparks questions on food, farming with dietitians

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Dr. Dan Thomson answers a question during the panel session following a viewing of the documentary “Farmland”

“Farmland” was the featured film during a special event held prior to the Kansas Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual meeting in Topeka Thursday, Apr. 14. Approximately 50 registered dietitians gathered to view the documentary, followed by drinks, hors d’oeuvres and a panel discussion featuring farmers and researchers.

Dietitian’s questions focused on GMOs, antibiotics, hormones, animal welfare and sustainability. Panelists shared real-life examples and research on these controversial topics to help equip the nutrition professionals with facts and resources to discuss the topics with their clients.

Panelists included:

  • Scotty Thelman owns Juniper Hill farms in Lawrence. He’s a young, first-generation farmer who grows organic and conventional crops. He also was recently featured in Kansas Living magazine.
  • Debbie Lyons-Blythe is a rancher from Morris County and mother of five. She began blogging in 2009 sharing what happens on her ranch and answering questions about her passions: “Kids, Cows and Grass!”
  • Dr. Dan Thomson is a professor in Kansas State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine and director of the Beef Cattle Institute. He is active on committees like McDonald’s Beef Health and Welfare Committee and Animal Welfare Advisory Board of the Food Marketing Institute.
  • Dr. Tom Clemente is a professor in the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s Department of Agronomy and Horticulture. He runs the Clemente Lab studying functional genomics and using genetic engineering to create value added and disease control traits.
From left, Lana Barkman and Melissa Reed discussed their farming operations with dietitians during the event

From left, Lana Barkman and Melissa Reed discussed their farming operations with dietitians during the event

CommonGround volunteers Lana Barkman and Melissa Reed mingled with dietitians throughout the evening, discussing their own farming operations. Melissa’s family operates Hildebrand Dairy, which bottles and sells milk across northeast Kansas. Lana’s background is in beef cattle, horses, poultry and greenhouse production.

The event was hosted by the Kansas Farm Food Connection, a group of farmers and ranchers who bring delicious Kansas-grown food to your table. The KFFC includes Kansas Farm Bureau, Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Wheat, Midwest Dairy, Kansas Livestock Association, Kansas Soybean Commission, Kansas Grain Sorghum and Kansas Corn. CommonGround also lends support to the KFFC.

Attendees went home with a reusable grocery bag from CommonGround filled with goodies from the KFFC partners.

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Farmers, chefs, nutrition professionals unite for downtown restaurant crawl

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

Craig and Amy Good explain how they raise pigs to meet a unique niche market.

CommonGround Kansas joined nutrition professionals, chefs and fellow farmers for a restaurant crawl in downtown Manhattan, Kan., on Wednesday, March 30.

The event preceded the Kansas Nutrition Council’s annual meeting, which gathers up to 150 Kansas professionals actively involved in nutrition education and health promotion. Their work takes place in colleges and universities, government agencies, cooperative extension, communications and public relations firms, the food industry, voluntary and service organizations and with other reliable places of nutrition and health education information.

About 65 participants visited three restaurants to sample a pairing of spirits and cuisine representing the Kansas farmers and ranchers who help produce it. Each group was escorted by Kansas farmers, including Michael and Christy Springer, who raise pork and row crops near Sycamore, Bob and Mary Mertz, who raise beef and row crops near Zeandale, and Jeff Grossenbacher, who raises row crops near Bern.

At Harry’s Restaurant, guests sampled wine and a prime strip loin with baguettes. They heard from executive chef Cadell Bynum, managing partner Evan Grier and farmers Glenn and Jennifer Brunkow, who raise crops and livestock near Westmoreland.

Tallgrass Taphouse featured pretzel breadsticks with a cheesy beer dipping sauce with a sample of a fruit-infused wheat beer. Brewmaster Brandon Gunn discussed the brewery’s history and rapid rise to success and wheat farmer Ken Wood shared how he raises wheat near Chapman.

At 4 Olives, guests enjoyed red wine with a savory Duroc pork belly over grits and heard from farmers Craig and Amy Good, who raised the meat near Olsburg. Chef Benjamin Scott discussed his restaurant’s relationship with the Goods and the inspiration behind the dish.

The groups reunited at the Tallgrass Taphouse Firkin Room for door prizes, beer flights and conversation to conclude the evening.

Funding Partners included the Kansas Pork Association, Kansas Farm Bureau and Kansas Wheat. Planning Partners included Midwest Dairy, Kansas Beef Council, Kansas Soybean Commission and CommonGround Kansas.

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Chopped Conference offers cocktails and conversation

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Lana and LaVell chatted with food bloggers about their farms.

As farmers, there’s no question that we love food, so it was a special treat to spend an evening with some folks who share our passion!

For the second year, CommonGround supported the Chopped Conference, an exciting two-day workshop that welcomes more than 100 food bloggers from across the country. While many attendees were from nearby states like Iowa, Kansas and Missouri, we were excited to connect with bloggers from as far away as Arizona, Michigan and Florida.

The bloggers gathered at the hip Rivermarket Event Place near downtown Kansas City to celebrate the conclusion of their conference. CommonGround sponsored the evening social, where delightful smells of Kansas City barbecue filled the air and bloggers sipped on cocktails like fall sangria.

Congrats to Jenni of The Gingered Whisk on winning one of our prize packs!

Congrats to Jenni of The Gingered Whisk on winning one of our prize packs!

Farmer volunteers LaVell Winsor and Lana Barkman chatted with the guests about food and farming topics. Bloggers also registered to win one of two $25 Amazon gift cards. Congratulations to Abby from The Frosted Vegan and Jenni from The Gingered Whisk on winning the prizes!

Have questions about how farmers raise food? We’re here to help! Check out the food and farming facts at findourcommonground.com or ask us a question. Your food choices are yours alone to make, and we’ll be happy to share how we raise crops and livestock on our farms so you can make informed decisions.

 

 

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Zest and Zing brings opportunities to answer food questions

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Patrick Shibley and Paul Freimuth battle during the chef’s competition at Zest and Zing.

A chef’s competition heated up the evening at Kansas Farm Bureau’s Zest and Zing event on Thursday, Apr. 30. Area foodies and farmers came together at Abode Venue in Wichita to enjoy cocktails and hors d’oeuvres while chefs battled out two delicious rounds to impress a panel of judges.

Patrick Shibley from Doo-Dah Diner edged out a victory over chef Paul Freimuth from the Harvest Kitchen & Barat the Hyatt Regency Wichita. The chefs cooked using flat iron steak and wheat germ, with surprise ingredients including chocolate, sun-dried tomatoes, pineapple, jalapeños and Vienna sausages.

Judges included Denise Neil of Dining With Denise and Stacy Mayo of From the Land of Kansas. Emcees included Chef Alli and CommonGround Kansas volunteer Katie Sawyer.

CommonGround volunteer Kim and Andrea from A Modern Hippie

Andrea from A Modern Hippie and Kim Baldwin chatted during the social hour at Zest and Zing.

CommonGround Kansas provided cutting mats in the event’s gift bags, as well as notepads and informational materials at a table in the sponsors’ area. Volunteer Kim Baldwin helped answer guests’ questions on topics ranging from water conservation to antibiotics.

Sponsors included Kansas SoybeanSedgwick County Farm Bureau Agricultural Association, Agribusiness Council of Wichita, From the Land of Kansas, Tonja’s Toffee and Grandma Hoerner’s.

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Bloggers meet farmers at Go Blog Social

Volunteers LaVell Winsor (left) and Laura Handke (right) chat with guests at the "Sip and Shop" event during Go Blog Social Apr. 3.

Volunteers LaVell Winsor (left) and Laura Handke (right) chat with guests at the “Sip and Shop” event during Go Blog Social Apr. 3.

Fashion and food brought new friends together at the Go Blog Social “Sip and Shop” event on Friday, Apr. 3. After a day of soaking up blogging tips, lifestyle bloggers from across the Midwest enjoyed an opportunity relax and sip on signature cocktails at the hip Berg Event Space near downtown Kansas City.

Attendees took a break from shopping and visiting with health and wellness professionals to ask their food and farming questions at the CommonGround Kansas table. Questions such as “Is grass-fed beef better?”, “Are there antibiotics in my meat?” and “Are hormones used in chicken?” were popular among attendees. Volunteers LaVell Winsor, Grantville, and Laura Handke, Atchinson, shared experiences from their farms and sent bloggers home with flexible cutting mats with food safety tips, as well as links to find science-based facts to help guide food choices.

This marks CommonGround Kansas’ second year attending the popular Go Blog Social conference, which helps attendees grow their blog and social media knowledge, connect with businesses and socialize with like-minded bloggers. Attendees had ample opportunities to learn about food and farming, as women from Kansas Farm Bureau and the Kansas Farm Food Connection also supported the event.

 

 

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Campus conversations focus on food & farming

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Volunteers from CommonGround, the Kansas Pork Association and K-State’s Food for Thought organization handed out free bacon and spoke with students and faculty in the Kansas Memorial Union on Apr. 1.

Bacon and buzzwords enticed curious visitors to pause at the University of Kansas on Wednesday, Apr. 1, to learn how Kansas farmers raise their food.

The Kansas Memorial Union lobby hummed with conversation as students, faculty and staff sampled free bacon and posed their questions on modern farming practices to volunteers from Kansas State University’s Food for Thought organization, the Kansas Pork Association and CommonGround Kansas. Some visitors posted their questions publicly to receive a “baconologist” or “baconista” T-shirt from the Kansas Pork Association.

Events connecting food buyers with farmers are becoming more common as interest in food production practices grows. Many consumers find they have more questions than answers.

“We’re faced with more choices than ever, which can be very overwhelming. Our goal is to forge connections where shoppers can feel comfortable asking tough questions of the folks growing their food,” said Shannon Krueger, CommonGround Kansas coordinator. “Everyone deserves to have the information they need to be confident in their food choices.”

Common questions addressed concerns with biotechnology, animal welfare and organic foods. Visitors learned about pig farming while viewing a model barn and received information with links to research on common food concerns.

Connor Needham, sophomore from Dallas, Texas, said making smart food decisions became more challenging once he started college.

“I grew up in a family that emphasized healthy food choices,” he said. “When I’m grocery shopping, I’ll call my mom for advice.”

Many shoppers find it difficult to find trustworthy sources for food information. In an increasingly noisy online space, it can be tedious to decipher which sources are based on sound science. In addition, few consumers personally know a farmer they can ask about production practices.

The widening communication gap requires cooperation from both sides.

“It is vital that farmers create opportunities to connect with consumers and listen to their concerns. It’s equally important that consumers seek out factual information to help guide food choices,” said Jacob Hagenmaier, Food for Thought outreach coordinator.

The event’s sponsoring organizations have a shared mission to connect grocery shoppers with the farmers who grow their food.

Visitors had the opportunity to share their questions publicly and received a "Baconista" or "Baconologist" T-shirt from the Kansas Pork Association. The responses filled two sides of our white board.

Visitors had the opportunity to share their questions publicly and received a “Baconista” or “Baconologist” T-shirt from the Kansas Pork Association. The responses filled two sides of our white board.

“We enjoy connecting with folks who are passionate and want to learn more about their food,” said Jodi Oleen, director of consumer outreach for the Kansas Pork Association. “Partnering with Food for Thought and CommonGround allows us to offer a wide variety of perspectives and information to our visitors.”

Volunteers included, from Food for Thought: Chance Hunley, Riverton; Lindi Bilberry, Garden City; Jacob Hagenmaier, Randolph; Bruce Figger, Hudson; Karly Frederick, Alden; from the Kansas Pork Association: Jodi Oleen, Manhattan; from CommonGround Kansas: Karra James, Clay Center; Laura Handke, Atchison; and Shannon Krueger, Abilene.

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Guests experience modern agriculture during farm tour

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Volunteer Kim Baldwin talks about growing wheat on her family’s farm near McPherson, KS.

Have you ever been to a working farm? Has it been many years since you saw a farm firsthand? You’re definitely not alone. Even in a highly agricultural and rural state like Kansas, most consumers have never seen modern agriculture firsthand. That changed for about a dozen guests who attended a special tour of Kansas farms on Saturday, July 19.

Volunteers Kim Baldwin and Katie Sawyer opened up their McPherson County farms and ranches to bloggers, media, dietitians and consumers during the first-ever CommonGround Kansas Farm Tour. Guests arrived via tour bus to see how the women and their families raise corn, soybeans, wheat, grain sorghum and cattle.

During the tour, the Baldwins showed guests their farm machinery and explained how each is used, including the innovative technology that allows them to more precisely plant, fertilize and harvest crops. Guests also learned about the family’s cow herd and were able to see the animals grazing on pasture near the farm. During a visit to the farm’s test plot, Kim and her husband, Adam, shared about biotechnology while showing different corn hybrids growing in the field.

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Volunteer Katie Sawyer explains how her family uses subsurface drip irrigation to more efficiently utilize water in one of their corn fields.

The bus traveled on to the Sawyer’s farm, where guests walked through a soybean field irrigated with a center pivot. Katie and her husband, Derek, also learned about subsurface drip irrigation and saw the technology working in one of the Sawyer’s corn fields. Katie talked about how the family cares for their cow herd and when and why antibiotics are used to care for sick animals.

Guests also visited the Mid-Kansas Cooperative Groveland facility, where they learned about grain markets. The tour concluded with a barbecue lunch at Knackie’s in Inman.

Thanks to everyone who attended! If you or someone you know is interested in visiting Kansas farms, please email us and we’ll notify you as future opportunities arise.

 

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

Guests toured the Mid Kansas Cooperative Groveland facilities near Inman to learn about grain storage and markets.

 

 

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Join us for a Wichita-area farm tour!

Conversations about farming and food

Saturday, July 19, 2014
8:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.

Please RSVP by Friday, July 18, at 5 p.m.

Bus will depart from north Wichita
We’ll email you promptly with the meeting location
and complete schedule upon your RSVP

 

Many Kansans want to understand how our food makes it from the farm to our tables. And we think farm tours are the best way to provide that information.

Join us for a tour of two Wichita-area farms where you’ll get an up-close look at how these family farmers raise your food. We’ll also visit a grain terminal to learn about what happens to crops after they leave the fields.

We will provide a barbecue lunch and transportation. All that we ask is that you come prepared to learn and talk about today’s food and farming. Attire is casual. Don’t forget comfortable shoes (tennis shoes or boots are recommended). We also encourage you to bring a camera.

CommonGround is a grassroots coalition of more than 140 volunteer farm women from across the U.S. Together, these volunteers raise a variety of produce, grains and livestock that feed our nation.To learn more about these women and the CommonGround program, please visit our website at http://www.FindOurCommonGround.com.

RSVP

By Friday, July 18, 5 p.m.
We’ll respond promptly with details on meeting location and schedule.
Email: CommonGroundKansas@gmail.com
Phone: (785) 479-1633

 

FindourCommonGround.com
Brought to you by America’s soybean and corn farmers and their checkoffs.

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Volunteers answer food questions at KC women’s expo

Just for Her Expo

Volunteers LaVell Winsor and Laura Handke chat with attendees at the Just for Her women’s expo.

One booth stood out amid a sea of exhibitors offering beauty, fashion, home goods and health products at the Just for Her expo in Overland Park, Kan., May 30-June 1. With welcoming smiles and a variety of conversation-starting materials, the farm women of CommonGround Kansas offered a unique opportunity for attendees to ask questions about farming and food.

The annual Just for Her expo is a regional event attracting a diverse population of women. Volunteers LaVell, Laura, Kim, Katie, Lana and Sarah were on hand throughout the weekend to chat with attendees. They answered a variety of questions and conversed with consumers on hot topics such as organic foods, GMO crops, antibiotic use in meat production and family farms.

Do you have questions about how your food is raised? CommonGround volunteers farm in 16 states across the nation, raising fruits, vegetables, grains and livestock. They love sharing how they take care every day to produce safe food for consumers around the globe.

 

 

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